A collaborative document, with contributions from: Mark Evans, Cass Fleming, Rebecca Loukes, Sara Reed and Amy Russell.
This piece of writing aims to offer reflection and provocation on the ways that the TDPT Special Issue ‘Against the Canon’ might be used as part of teaching and learning activities within theatre, dance and performance courses and training programmes. We write this as academics and artists, aware of our position as white and privileged – and we invite critique, challenge and debate.
For work ‘against the canon’ to have continuing impact, it needs to reach out beyond the page of academic journals and start to affect the ways in which pedagogy operates and the ways in which teachers and students engage with canonical forms of training and canonical content. Editing the special issue has brought to the fore for us so many questions about deep assumptions underpinning much practice in Universities and conservatoires. The changes being wrought by #MeToo and by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) campaign also offer profound challenges to the ways in which training for performance is structured, taught, assessed and perceived. The suggestions and provocations outlined below are offered only as a number of possible starting points and are in no way definitive – they should themselves be open to challenge and critique. We suggest that those interested in this work should approach it collaboratively, as befits the subject matter, working in partnership with students, colleagues, industry partners and interested communities.
We are delighted to announce the publication of Theatre, Dance and Performance Training 11.3, “Against the Canon”, guest edited by Mark Evans (Coventry University) and Cass Fleming (Goldsmiths University), with Training Grounds section edited by Sara Reed (Coventry University)
This special issue of Theatre, Dance and Performer Training addresses the forgotten and marginalised contributions made by various collaborative artists and practitioners to the development of performer training during the twentieth and twenty first centuries.
Many previous publications on training have tended to focus on canonical figures and the dominant historical performer-training narratives. Less attention has been paid to collaboration as an important characteristic of avant-garde performance training, and to the complex exchanges through which pedagogy and work has been developed and disseminated. This journal issue intentionally centralises these acts of cross-fertilisation and collaborative exchanges, thereby shifting the focus away from canonical individual figures and towards frequently overlooked or under-recognised practitioners and pedagogues. In doing so, we are aware that this special issue is not alone in advocating for such a shift of focus. In many respects we see this issue as one particular marking point in a turn away from a linear, white and patriarchal history of theatre, dance and performance training.
Our contributing authors challenge the manner in which traditional performer training histories often still seek to capture the ‘purity’ of established methods and to identify individual (often white male) owners of successful techniques. This issue will seek to challenge the ways in which practitioners such as Stanislavsky, Craig, Copeau, Laban, Lecoq, Chekhov and Meisner are often uncritically revered as ‘Master Teachers’ and the ways in which this obscures or negates the existence of wider networks of artists who contributed to the development of these training practices, many of whom were women. To this extent our authors are not looking simply to critique existing canonical figures, but to bring forward the work of those who are usually ignored.
Northern Ballet (UK), Misiconi Dance Company (Netherlands) and Psico Ballet Maite Leon (Spain) have developed a free online toolkit for teaching dancers with additional learning support needs, which enables them to fulfil their potential, and is underpinned by safe practice. Funded by Erasmus + with scientific guidance from the University of Edinburgh, the SHIFT Dance toolkit is the culmination of an 18-month research and development project.
The SHIFT Dance toolkit has been launched to share the practices developed during the project more widely whilst raising the profile and skills of dancers with additional learning support needs across Europe. Available in English, Dutch and Spanish, the toolkit is free to access for all but will be particularly useful for dance practitioners at community, educational and professional level. It can be accessed at the SHIFT Dance website www.shiftdance.eu